Monday, February 21, 2011

Bigotry As Comfort

This article recently ran at Talking Points Memo's Book Club, in promotion of Michael Wolraich's book Blowing Smoke. You can purchase it as a Deschamps associate by clicking the widget to the right.

I like Michael's description of Beck as "rationalizing" bigotry.

There's a video of Beck discussing the infamous Father Charles Coughlin and dismissing comparisons between him and the two. In the video, he notes that Coughlin viewed poverty and inequality as a chief issue, which differentiates him from the Ayn Rand touting Beck. The lack of self-awareness shows as he continues to describe Coughlin, saying that Coughlin believed the Great Depression was caused by a "cabal of international bankers" who worked in tandem to usurp "American sovereignty." That that was the basic argument of his George Soros obsession seems to be lost in the midst of Beck's self-awareness deficit. Beck's alleged cabal of bankers is likewise overwhelmingly Jewish and his frequent use of Nazi imagery, and his use of screenshots of the Sinai peninsula (Go back and watch the video for yourself. It's right there in the open.) while talking about Soros is an act of blowing the fascist dog whistle louder than it's been blown in a long, long time. We'd have to be able to catch Beck in private to know if he uses derogatory terms for Jews, but from the outside it seems to rationalizes old, indeed ancient, anti-Semitic arguments by substituting "progressive" for "Jew." As his fans at the white nationalist website Stormfronthave put it, Beck goes "as close as you can get to naming the Jew without actually naming the Jew."

There's so many more examples of his rationalization of bigotry, as Michael has put it, and Charles Johnson and I have documented them pretty well. The rationalization threatens to cascade into the avenues that may even surprise, however. Even with significant disillusion with the right wing, stories such as the effort of House Republicans to legally redefine "rape" to "forcible rape" continue to astonish. As a female friend said, this is apparently justified because "in the whole 'I'm a poor defenseless man,' world, rape is a tool used by nubile young women to trap defenseless older men."

As Michael put it, it's no longer about proving that Beck and the Tea Party brigadiers carry bigoted resentment but explaining it. It seems as if, at least on an unconscious level, significant levels of the population have bought into the paradigm that racism and bigotry is okay now that WASPs are no longer in total control in society. This could possibly explain the adoption of terms like "ruling class" by Rush Limbaugh just as he makes crude imitations of Chinese accents.

The decline of America as a superpower plays into all of this. Americans have not felt a strong need to think about the rest of the world for a long time, and the country's untouchable hegemony seemed to vindicate that. Now Americans are losing jobs to people halfway across the world who actually speak more than one language, have a stronger work ethic and are willing to work for less. The irrationality of racism and stereotypes provides a comfort that at least you're still superior to the people you're losing out to. You can see this in clips where Glenn Beck proclaims that there are no working toilets in India.

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